Defining a Revolution

Defining a Revolution

Nintendo seem to attract all kinds of attention, both critically and supportive. They bring out some vague details, and within seconds, the internet is flooded with rumour and controversy. They have been in the industry for some twenty five years, surpassed only by Atari, which is now just a name on a new company, and Activision, 30 years as the first 3rd party developer. People seem to jump to conclusions before all information is disclosed, myself included. I was terrified when I had read on a website about a “press interview” with Reggie Fils-Aime where the executive stated that the Revolution would be two to three times more powerful than the Nintendo GameCube.

I was shocked, especially when the Xbox 360 and PS3 would presumably deliver 10 and 30 times the power of their predecessors respectively. Immediately, I slammed Nintendo for such a lousy piece of hardware that they had apparently been working on before the GCN was even released globally, I myself saying that it “would not compete with the next generation in terms of graphics, it would compete with THIS generation”. Fortunately, and much to my relief, that story was proven false. However, I’ve taken the time to sit back and analyse the information available, what we know and what we don’t. I had decided that no matter what “news” became available on the net, I would wait until Nintendo releases the details in full. This is the company that resurrected the video game industry after all. That was until I read on IGN last week that apparently, “at this time”, the Revolution would not support HDTV.

It seems for every step forward Nintendo takes, they are also taking two steps back. The Nintendo 64 would be 3D and 64 Bit, but it would use cartridges instead of CDs. The GameCube would support online play, but Nintendo would not pursue that avenue. Furthermore, this company has been telling us what we want in an attempt to make them look good. They told us that people don’t want online games or DVD players in consoles. This is absolutely ludicrous; I would love to play Smash Bros. and Mario Kart online. I would have loved at one stage to be able to play DVDs on my video game console. In fact, I would be willing to bet that as much as 10% of the audience of the PS2 (7 million) used its DVD capability as a deciding factor in its purchase. It may not be primarily bought as a player, but the function is there. It seems that for the PSP that is the case more so now. Although it has healthy sales, games continually fail to make the top twenty in Japan. Why? It is being bought as a multimedia device.

However, all through this, I have stood by Nintendo. And that is saying a lot for someone from Australia. Advertising is a commonplace for Xbox and PS2, but I don’t remember the last Nintendo advertisement that I saw. But I have decided to look at this objectively. There is no point being fan boyish. Nintendo are where they are because of themselves and themselves only. It is not any other company’s fault. If Nintendo is damaged, it is because of their inability to be proactive, or efficiently reactive. I will refer readers to my Nintendo Difference article. I do feel that Nintendo’s decision to not include HDTV support will hurt them tremendously sales wise. What do you think the main stream gamers will say when they see three pods aligned, with a PS3, 360 and Revolution, two of which have HDTV and the other Progressive Scan at best? I know what I would say. However, we don’t know all, and here is why we should not condemn Nintendo to the ravages of Hell.

I support 1080up. I think they are doing the right thing. And I encourage you all to jump on the petition bandwagon and let Nintendo know your unrest at the decision to omit HDTV support by way of email or letter. But DO NOT damn them before you know all the details. You may dislike the idea, as I do, but, as I said above, you need to be objective. We don’t know what’s going on in Tokyo. I have no idea at all. The closest that I have been to the industry was a short visit to Nintendo Australia in 2002, and it was nothing special. Perhaps what Nintendo have planned will make definition rates redundant.

They have continually stated that control mechanics will have major changes. But, as usual, Nintendo’s comments are vague at best. Reggie has suggested people think of how a controller can support Nintendo’s entire back catalogue of games, even though each and every controller has been different. It is therefore not too different in that it will alienate developers, but will be ‘revolutionary’ none the less. Well, to date, the GameCube controller would do just fine, capable of managing games that have appeared on the NES, SNES, N64, GB, GBA and its own games. We all know the Revolution has GCN ports. So, Nintendo could still have an entirely new design. But I think they are holding back. There is something more…

Recently, Nintendo made updates to patents dated June 2005. We reported to this here. These have turned out to be updates to tilt sensing controls on the GCN filed in 2003. But I think that it may be deeper than just some files updated recently. The only reason to patent something is to protect the interest. Now if the GCN is so close to the end of its lifecycle (within 12 months or so), why would Nintendo update it now? I think the same can be said for the 64DD update of late last year. And now, I can see why that may have been updated. The principal for the 64DD was to download updates to games (Zelda: Master Quest). These updates may be graphical, mechanical, or orchestral. We just don’t know. But now, we are hearing of how the Revolution will be a virtual console, capable of downloading past games. Last week, Nintendo’s Iwata stated that these updates may feature graphical upgrades. The patent of the 64DD was nothing to do with the hardware concerned, but rather, I think it was to protect the principal as described. And now that that is protected, Nintendo is beginning to reveal.

I think that it is highly possible that the same can be said for the update to the tilt sensing control. Nintendo isn’t patenting the concept for the hardware demonstrated, but rather, protecting the principle of control methods, – and display. The new patents speak of a “3D game field” or “game space”. But we have had 3D games for a long time. So what is this description about? Perhaps it has something to do with a brand new way to display games. IGN’s Matt Casamassina played down this theory in a recent debate with David Gorniski of Nintendo Now